Analysis of a Job Application: What to Do (and Not to Do) When Responding to a Job Ad

What exactly should you be thinking about when applying to a new job? Here’s 5 tips.

#1 – Don’t Judge a Position by Its Title

Any work place can suffer from having opaque – or just plain bad – job titles, but higher ed in particular. One place I’ve worked, everyone calls all job titles by a 3 letter acronym, and Academic Advisors are abbreviated….ASs. Seriously.

My point is, when you’re looking for a job, some job titles stand out more than others.

A real example: you might see “Quality Assurance Analyst” and go, eww, gross.

But read the job description and you would soon learn that it’s really technical writing. Ensuring that each team has a current and accurate job manual, and if not, helping them write and revise one and make it clear. REad further and find it pays $80,000. And has great benefits!

Don’t pass over a job until you’ve skimmed the job description.

#2 – Don’t Discount Your Experience!

You may be like most academics and read a job ad super literally and go: “They want 2 years of experience and since I don’t have any on-the-job experience in this industry, no point applying!”

Hold up. Are you SURE your grad school research assistantship doesn’t count towards that? Because guess what? It DOES. Academics are notorious for dismissing their work experience in academia, because it’s, well, academic. It’s STILL WORK EXPERIENCE. It’s of value to potential employers. Think of it as showing what you can do, not what you have done.

Are you forgetting that your experience managing your data collection, analysis, and synthesis for your dissertation, all while teaching, attests to your experiencing managing multiple simultaneous projects? Because it totally does.

Besides, you’ll have a worse time explaining where you’ve been for 3-10 years if you leave grad school off your resume!

#3 – Don’t Back out of Applying Based on Desired Qualifications

You do NOT need to meet all desired qualifications to apply. In fact, you may have heard that women don’t apply unless they meet 100% of the listed qualifications (which comes from The Confidence Code). Whereas men tend to apply if they meet 25% of the requirements.

Any job ad is a wish list of knowledge, skills, and experience. There is almost never anybody who has all of the things listed.

The hiring team is going to have to weigh which needs the final candidate MUST be able to tackle right away, and which ones they can learn as they go. So take comfort in your proven ability to Learn on the Fly, learning something quickly when you know absolutely nothing. Apply!

#4 – Don’t Oversell Your Experience Either

On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as pompous. Be humble. And be accurate.

Just because you taught 60 students a section does not equate to supervising a team of 60. The employer isn’t going to see it that way.

And your Graduate Teaching Assistantship? While it felt like it was full-time work, employers see one year of that as 6 months of full-time experience (because it’s half-time, and you were in your own classes at the same time.) So, no, that doesn’t count as 1 year of full-time experience.

When you oversell yourself, employers see right through it. And you’d likely be setting yourself up for failure anyway, taking on too big of a role that you’re not prepared for.

This means you might find yourself applying for more “entry-level” jobs. Apply anyway; being willing to start out on the ground floor shows you’re willing to learn, and with your skill set & abilities, you’ll rise past your starting point very quickly.

#5 – If you don’t Meet the Minimums, Don’t Apply

You must meet the minimum qualifications in order to make it over the first hurdle. Don’t make a bad first impression by applying indiscriminately to jobs when your background and experience have absolutely nothing in common with the job that’s open. What if down the road, you want to work for a different job on the same team? They’ll remember that time when you applied well above your weight class.

#6 – Do: Follow the application instructions

When you don’t follow their instructions, you are giving them an easy out to say No. If you can’t be trusted to follow the rules when applying, you can’t be trusted to do the work.

When they tell you to upload your documents, and then ask you to provide the exact same information in their web fields, just do it and move on. Let out an exasperated sigh and do it. Work places often have inane and silly rules and hoops you will have to jump through from time to time. Might as well get used to it now!

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